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Lam Ching Ying (1952 - 1997) Appreciation Thread

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Wow, it's been almost 4 years since I watched a Lam Ching Ying movie! Thankfully I remedied this recently by watching Stephen Tung Wei's 1990 directorial debut - 'Magic Cop'. What makes this movie unique is that it essentially takes Lam's ghost busting character from the Mr. Vampire movies, and places him in a modern day setting as a Hong Kong cop with a sense for supernatural goings on.

Lam is put on the case of a mysterious woman who was suspected to be involved in a drug deal, however when it turns out the woman in question seemingly died a week before, black magic is suspected as being used to employ re-animated corpses as drug mules. Cue plenty of Taoist magic techniques to track down those behind the crime, which leads to a sorceress and her bodyguard, played by Michiko Nishiwaki and Billy Chow.

'Magic Cop' surprisingly plays out as equal parts police procedural and 90's Hong Kong action movie. When it focuses on either, it's both engaging and suitably tense, however when the attention is turned to either of Lam's partners (played by Wilson Lam and Michael Miu) or his over protected cousin (played by Wong Mei Wa), the pace noticeably drags. This is Lam Ching Ying's show, and thankfully he's onscreen for most of the run time, so the above is a minor quibble.

Lam gets to show his kung-fu skills in a few brief moments throughout, including a re-match with Billy Chow from their confrontation in 'Her Vengeance' a couple of years earlier. However the focus is arguably more on stunt work and special effects (of which all are of the practical variety) than fight choreography, something I'd say was consistent of all of Tung Wei's directorial efforts with the exception of his last movie, 'Extreme Challenge'.

'Magic Cop' also has welcome appearances from Hong Kong cinema favorites like Wu Ma and Frankie Chin, and features a meta-location in the form of a scene that takes place at Eddie Maher's Health Club. Maher, apart from owning a health club, also starred as a bad guy in a number of HK movies from the mid-80's - mid-90's, notably taking on Lau Kar Leung in 'New Kids in Town'. The Eddie who owns the health club here though is played by Frankie Chin.

'Magic Cop' may not take the completely crazy route that perhaps the concept of a Taoist cop in modern HK movie could have gone, staying grounded and straight faced for the majority of its run time, and for the most part this works in the movies favor. The roof top finale that pits Lam vs both Nishiwaki and Chow while trying to save his cousin is suitably impressive, combining kung-fu, magic, stunts, and some grizzly make up to entertaining effect.


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Also visit my review site, my Letterboxd page (http://letterboxd.com/FilmMomatic/) and follow my Twitter account (https://twitter.com/FilmMomatic) for more reviews!

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